In the weird world of video games, it’s possible to marry very disparate styles indeed. Rune Factory is a Harvest Moon game with RPG-style dungeons in between tilling your fields, and Brutal Legend mashed together a Jack Black simulator with a poor-quality sandbox and called it a day. Still, all these pale in comparison to the bizarre matchup that is Glitchspace.
Glitchspace, currently in alpha, is a first-person puzzle platformer which pulls double duty as a guide to programming logic. Can’t fault it for understanding the sort of person who browses the Steam indie releases section, then, but it’s almost certainly a unique genre and as such defies easy analysis.
At the core of Glitchspace is what has driven most puzzle platformers since Portal – it’s the employment of a unique physics mechanic – in this case, a visual, flowchart-style programming window – to alter the state of the level to complete puzzles. So it is with Glitchspace. Red blocks can be edited manually and their attributes – such as physical position, dimensions, and exertion of force on the player (ie bounciness) changed by arranging blocks of logic and numbers according to a Tetrisesque slotting together of similar connectors between them.
It’s clear from that haphazard explanation that this can quickly become quite confusing and without an effective tutorial on how to use the pop-up programming window the first hurdle can become a stumbling block.
The complexity escalates further when the character’s gun begins to be used around the third stage. This odd weapon can be ‘loaded with code’ for want of a better term and used to shoot distant blocks with whatever physical effect the player wishes to apply. In the limited alpha game, this is only explored through extending distant platforms to allow the player access, but it bears waiting on because of its potential for very interesting mechanics indeed – for example, frantically editing code midair to bounce through an obstacle course.
The presentation is minimalist and apart from the sky white and red seem to be the only colours featured. This may be out of early-development necessity, but it’s actually quite charming in its own way and lends a hand to the technologically focused theme of the game. It feels a little like Portal might were it generated by the Matrix for humans in their stasis tubes to play for distraction. Before you ask, no that simile did not spiral out of control. Oculus Rift is supported (although not essential) and the game’s bottomless pits and focus on 3D platforming might be greatly helped by the addition of a new dimension to the graphics.
Audibly it’s a combination of the Wii menu music and jet engine noise, and fluctuations in volume are so huge that it can get tremendously noisy at seemingly random intervals. That’s something for tweaking later in production though and overall it’s a fairly pleasant backdrop.
The number of levels included in the current game is small, and perhaps may not seem worth the initial investment for the amount of gameplay made available as a result. However, a purchase through Steam does entitle the player to full updates up to full release, so it might be worth considering as a future investment.
Dundee-based developers Space Budgie have a lot of work to do before the game is in a finished, playable state and at this stage it’s lacking features it might be assumed will be in the completed product, like a tutorial or level creator, but so far Glitchspace is showing a great deal of promise. This is one new Oculus title to keep both eyes on.